Slow down: The Minimalist MindIs your head too full?  Full of schedules? To do lists? Worries? Ideas?

Are there drunken monkeys partying in your brain, making you distracted and distractable? Anxious? Or just exhausted?

Do you need time and space to focus on your goals and plans?

This is the final in our series on Your Brilliant Year. We’ve looked at:

Today we’re setting you up for success with a calm mind and the clarity and focus to see you through a busy but brilliant year.

Managing Your Mind

I recently watched Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things on Netflix. Have you seen it? You must.

Minimalism is not just about downsizing your possessions and decluttering your home. It’s so much more. It’s a philosophy for life.

Minimalism is about living with intention and awareness of what we have and what we need. That awareness extends to our thoughts and how we manage our minds.

We all have ‘monkey minds’ at times; busy, cluttered and chaotic. Thoughts, ideas and plans jump around in there with little system or sequence. It’s like a bouncy castle full of toddlers. Thoughts leap over one another, scrabbling and squabbling with shrieks of joy and the occasional wail.

To maintain focus on what’s important and stay happy we need to calm our thoughts. We need them to take turns in an orderly manner. We need to declutter and simplify.

We can remove the unnecessary and unhelpful ones and soothe the worried and the pained.

Thinking is very useful, of course, but much of what we think about is makes us overwrought and miserable. By paying attention to our thoughts and the activity of our mind we begin to take control of the monkeys. We can decide who stays and who goes. Who’s helping and who’s not?

You might recognise this practice as mindfulness – and that’s exactly what it is. We can be mindful in a formal sense, using meditation, but we can also be mindful in every ordinary moment. Mindfulness is a form of self awareness training. We just need to practise paying attention to our thoughts and how they make us feel. Then we can decide what to do with them.Slow Down - The Minimalist Mind

Is this helping?

When I find myself ruminating, worrying, stressed or anxious I know it’s time to reconsider my thinking. I pause and pay conscious attention to the voice in my head. The voice that runs a constant commentary as we go about our day – you know the one.

I look for patterns and the links between my thoughts and feelings. If I’m stressed, what is the voice saying? Is it resentful? Fearful? Angry? Is it blaming others? Or blaming me?

Listen to that voice – the voice of your thoughts – and you can begin to understand your feelings and take control.

I ask myself, ‘Is it helping to think like this? Is it making me feel good? Is it making me more productive?’

If the answer is no and the thoughts keep swirling, making me sad or stressed or angry, I gently remind myself to let that thinking go.

‘Either solve the problem or let it go.’

Worrying does not solve problems. Action does. Declutter the worries, the fear and the anger and you can simplify your mind. Then you can focus on what is important. On what matters to you and on what you want to achieve.

Simple Mantras That Help

Of course it’s not always simple. We are wired to worry, it’s human. But there are some simple mantras we can repeat to maintain a minimalist mind.

  • Don’t pine for things you don’t have
  • Don’t fret about things that haven’t happened
  • Don’t ruminate about the past
  • Don’t get angry about what you can’t control

Keep it simple. Focus on the good – and get out there and make this year a brilliant one.

Last Week: What You Need to Know to Stop Procrastinating